Remember those long, sunny, summer days when you were small? When you couldn't stop, wouldn't stop exploring until your parents convinced you to come in for dinner? Sadly, our kids may not have the same memories. Experts say kids today spend half the time playing outside as their parents did.
We've all heard kids who spend time outside are happier, healthier and more creative. But more city living with new shows, games and phones means kids are exposed to more screen time inside than ever before. As technology pulls us away from the natural world, how can we help Mother Nature compete with what's new? Here are a few easy ideas to make being outside exciting wherever you are...
1. Go to “the beach”
Bring the best of the beach to your backyard. Water? Check. Inflatable pools are so hot right now that you can find them online for less than the price of puddle jumpers. Sand? Yes. The kinetic kind makes for even better sand castles because it molds, won’t stick to your hands (and absolutely every part of your kids), and never dries out so you can use it again and again. Sun? Plentiful in summer. Just grab your suits. Bonus beach points for a sprinkler or slip ‘n’ slide. Oh, and tropical drinks for everyone.
2. Go to “the mountains”
Part of the excitement when heading for the hills is collecting your gear. Take the kids to an outdoor store like REI to look for (or just at) supplies. Explore aisle after aisle of bright nylon and cool gadgets. Maybe even treat the kids to something small like a headlamp. Later, set up a tent in the backyard and equip it with all your outdoor items. Make hot dogs and s’mores in the microwave. Tell stories under the stars. Sleep in your sleeping bags – and still sneak in to go to the bathroom.
3. Go to “a foreign country”
You don’t always need to take a long flight to venture to a new country and culture. Indulge your culinary curiosity and make a few new foods. For instance, Argentine empanadas are a cinch to make with pizza dough and kids’ favorite fillings from savory meats to fruity sweets. Visit the library to find a few books or movies about Argentina to learn more about the place, people, history, food and drinks. Then enjoy your authentic meal al fresco with fun candles or party lights.
4. Go to “Disney”
Instead of venturing all the way to the Sunshine State, encourage the kids to dress up as or bring out their favorite Disney characters. You can find a mini movie projector for as much as movie theatre tickets for a family of four. Add a sheet and fire up your home theatre. Make a nest of blankets outside and enjoy a Disney classic with some theme snacks. Better yet, kick off the magical night by showing a glimpse of the Enchanted Tiki Room with a homemade Dole Whip – no lines required!
5. Go to “the Olympics”
Why wait another two years for the Summer Olympics? Divide the kids and their friends into teams, and ask them to come up with names and uniforms. Then organize some DIY activities. You can play Twister with circle stencils and spray painted grass or Memory with painted cork tiles. You can also compete in Outdoor Pictionary with driveway drawings and a Balloon Toss to cool off. Come evening, get crazy with Glow-in-the-Dark Bowling using glow sticks in water bottles. Let the games begin...